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Shiatsu Vitality: Why your body works better with warmth

I had a client come back after a while away this week with a bad back, luckily though she'd been on the internet looked up some solutions and bought heat remedies to tide her over. She was surrounded with advice that mainly consisted of 'you should put ice on it!' I wonder how many of those people suggesting an ice remedy have ever had their back go and applied ice?!? At the least it will feel uncomfortable and at worst you'll go into cramping and have worse pain.

Now you may have heard 'apply ice to an injury', but it is a very specific type of injury and comes in the form of 'RICE - Rest, Ice, compression and elevation' ; when I broke my ankle RICE was perfect. This is because it's a major, acute trauma, with inflammation, it needed immediate action for the inflammatory response and acute injury. There was no way I could walk on it, if you'd applied heat I probably would have screamed, and I had to elevate and rest for weeks - it was a hot injury!

If your accident/trauma/ 'my back has just gone' is red throbbing and hot to touch, or you don't even want to touch the issue, then RICE and Ice are exactly what you should do; however normal every day injuries (that don't include bashing something) are cold injuries.


If you are doing an every day chore, sitting in the same place, woke up with a crick, just happening to be when 'something goes' its very likely going to be a cold injury.

How do you know this?

By touch, and the first thing to apply is warmth, and if you don't want warmth you can try cold, but always start with warmth. This is because warmth isn't so traumatic to the body as applying ice. Warmth could be your hand, a blanket, a warmed up wheaty bag, these are all gentle to start with; going straight to ice isn't!

Very quickly you can have accessed whether your injury is hot or cold based; I'm talking about the type that doesn't require going to A&E of course, please apply common sense here :)

Cold injury's happen due to a number of everydy things - you're feeling cold, you're inflexible, you've slept awkwardly, you're nutritionally depleted, something has become weak, you're emotionally stressed, fearful, and then something happens which is like the proverbial 'straw that broke the camels back'.

On reflection you're wondering 'why has this happened now', but it's happened because there were several other underlying factors that have all come together, in time become a chronic condition and have now allowed something to 'just go'.


A lot of the time issues are muscular, whether the original accident or because of holding/compensating for a few days because something hurts you've now created a muscular issue. Not moving your muscles causes them to lock, partly from keeping them in a 'working' mode (contracted and so they don't fully release /relax) and partly from the blood now not flowing freely and so the muscles get colder and toxins build up.

Think frozen shoulder.

If you haven't even had one there will be someone around you that has. It's a perfect description of what is going on in your anatomy. Frozen shoulders don't just happen, they can be an extension of a rotator cuff injury or a neck problem, and over time the shoulder becomes more immobile. It's cold, and it doesn't want to move and painkillers will stop working on it. It will also get to a point of when accidentally bashed that will feel incredibly painful as it's now in a 'brittle' state (we call this 'empty jitsu'!) then Qi isn't flowing, the blood has stagnated (love that word) and the pent up fluids are full of toxins. This doesn't just happen to shoulders it also happens to your neck, upper/lower back, knees, fingers and toes.


There is so much going on but did you know a majority of back problems stem from the abdominal and hip muscles , both are on the front of the body. These muscles can be weak (the abs) or contracted (the hip flexors/Psoas) sitting all day can affect all of these muscles. Do you stand up sometimes and groan that your back is complaining as you straighten up? I know, I've been there, this is a sure sign that your Psoas muscles are tightening up and as this happens it puts more strain and a vulnerability into your lower back.

This is just a simple example of how problems slowly build up, these are chronic issues, and chronic issues are cold issues. If you go to exercise, you know to warm your muscles up (most people don't, but this is what you should do!). It's the same here creaky muscles and clicky joints are signs of cold and warmth really helps them.


Self massage, especially for hands and wrists, start higher up the arms and work down. For knees, rub them furiously. For ankles and wrists, shake in every direction; we have a saying in chinese medicine 'shaking cures a 1000 ills'. It's a great saying and simply put it means shake your body to move the energy, in moving this you'll move your blood and lymph, and this will shift toxins (these are the enemies of your muscles). Shaking not only warms you up, it loosens you up, it frees you up and this is massively important in keeping your body flexible, mobile and lessening the chances of a chronic injury.

You can add warmth with hot pads in any form, and a good one for men, sports people, dog walkers is an extra layer over the kidneys, you can cut a T shirt in half and use the bottom half as a 'kidney warmer'. I could write a whole article on ways to add warmth into your body, but for now just know you always need to add warmth.

This time of year (summer) people can have cold injurys because you think its warm, and then go sit in the shade. It's amazing how many cold shoulders can be kicked off by sitting outside a cafe, catch a chill into an already stiff shoulder/ back and it will get worse as muscles contract to try and retain warmth; this can then lead to your back going into spasm. A lot of the time as the weather is warm you may not then think to apply warmth to an injury, but no matter how hot the day you can still have a cold injury. I see quite a few of these normally throughout our summer months.


I had a call with a lady in Bristol last year, shouldn't couldn't get to me for obvious reasons and she had such a pain in one of her toes she was quite distressed. She told me everything she'd been doing and that she rubbed in tiger balm. I didn't know at the time there were different types, I'd only known of the original formula (the red one) which is heat inducing. I couldn't understand why her toe was so bad, it was a cold injury and it was getting worse. Finally it came out that the Tiger balm was white, a cooling formula.


I explained she need to change to heat and talked her through massage, she sounded very sceptical. Anyway good news, her toe sorted itself out in a matter of days once she switched to warm treatments.


This may seem obvious, you'd keel over with a heart attack if it didn't, but also not everyone applies this common sense to everyday aches and chronic injurys. 'Holding' something stops blood flow, being immobile/ inactive stops blood flow, tight muscles stops blood flow; things don't work so well in your body if they don't have blood flow.

The only components of in your body that don't have direct access to blood vessels are ligaments and tendons, and those are the things that go the easiest and take the longest to heal, as no blood flow :)

It's as easy as this if something clicks, clonks or creaks - blood isn't flowing smoothly, something is stuck or blocked. It's a bit like a dam, on one side something is building up with pressure (like the lake behind the dam), and on the far side there's only a trickle getting through, its enough to keep you alive, but not enough to maintain optimal health; fingers and toes are very prone to this!


I haven't even started on the emotional implications on your muscles, organs, blood flow and toxins but they're doing the same as all the pernicious chronic issues that are lying around your body just waiting to reach a critical point where that straw comes along to sit on the camel....

Shiatsu intervenes to ensure you don't get into this state. It has its work cut out, especially when treatments are intermittent. Shiatsu is fantastic at being preventative but that does mean having it regularly; like you would a massage. Massage will do the trick to a degree though not to the same sensitivity as Shiatsu where we 'listen to your body', sympathetically removing blockages and supporting hidden weaknesses. If you've had a treatment with me and you've said 'your hands are so hot', this is because your body is so cold. This will be a place of chronic weakness, where the blood isn't flowing so well and an injury is just waiting to happen.

Ward off injurys and chronic issues with regular shiatsu, keep your body flowing and your mind glowing! As a truly holistic therapy you can come for shiatsu to help you clear your head, calm your thoughs, relieve overwhelm and anxiety as well as keep you in optimal physical health, and keep those unsuspecting injuries from happening.

Contact Andrea or check out the treatment options here. You deserve to look after yourself, you deserve Shiatsu!


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